All Hands on Deck - A Guide to Successful All Hands Meetings

All Hands on Deck - A Guide to Successful All Hands Meetings

For many businesses, there’s one meeting that stands above the rest. Some call it a “company-wide” meeting, others call it a “town hall,” but we like to call it the “All Hands on Deck” meeting because we believe that is the best way to describe its purpose. All Hands on Deck meetings (or “All Hands” for short) pays homage to a ship captain, gathering his or her crew. It’s a call to action. It’s a rallying cry. If a company leader decides to interrupt the work of all their employees and bring them together, it should be for a good reason. And for your company, it can be an opportunity to bring your crew together, share updates, align strategic goals, celebrate achievements, and unify the team.
So, now that you know what an All Hands on Deck meeting is, how do you ensure that you’re running it properly? How often should you be running it? And what do you even talk about? We’re here to answer these questions and many more, so that you get the most out of every meeting.

Who is the meeting for?

Everyone in the company should be invited to your All Hands meeting. Don’t leave anyone out. Special things happen when an entire organization gets together. There really is power and strength in numbers. It helps promote unity and team spirit. It gives departments that may never interact with each other opportunities to meet and create friendships. It also allows all the employees to be aligned and understand the company’s near and long term goals. It’s not an All Hands on Deck meeting unless everyone is there.
"There really is power and strength in numbers. It helps promote unity and team spirit."

How often should these meetings be held?

The frequency of All Hands meetings is really up to company leadership, but we recommend holding them as frequently as you find it productive. At Eddy, we hold our company-wide All Hands on Deck meeting every Monday morning. It’s a great way for us to break down the happenings of the previous week, and set goals and expectations for the week to come.
If it’s too difficult to get all your employees together every single week, once every month could also be a good option. Holding these meetings quarterly, semi-annually, or yearly will likely be too infrequent, unless you have a really large organization.
Remember, even though they might cause a slight disruption to the business, these meetings can boost employee morale, increase productivity, align goals, and help rally employees around a shared mission. If these things are important to you, hold All Hands meetings more frequently.

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Who should speak at these meetings?

All Hands on Deck meetings bring everyone from every department together. Therefore, it’s a waste of an opportunity if only one person speaks during the meeting. We recommend having a representative from each department give an update on what’s going on with their department-specific goals, and what they’re doing to make a positive impact on the company.
At Eddy, we’ve also found this meeting to be a great opportunity to get to know our fellow co-workers. Every week, we choose one employee to present a Pecha Kucha. A Pecha Kucha is a presentation where an employee puts together a slide deck about themselves, their life, their family, their likes and dislikes, as well as responses to other critical questions (like whether you prefer Star Wars or Harry Potter). These presentations have given us an inside look into the lives of our co-workers who may have never interacted or worked with.
Employee presentations are a great way to get to know the people in your organization and are lots of fun.

What should the agenda look like?

First and foremost, make sure you have an agenda. Going into a company-wide meeting without one simply will not do. You can display your agenda on the first page of your slide-deck, send it out to the entire company before the meeting, or both.
If you have a large organization and your agenda is filled with speakers, it may be important to set a time-limit for each presentation. People are easily sidetracked and can spend far more time than is necessary when given the opportunity to present. Your audience will lose interest, and the effectiveness of the meeting will decrease. Time-limits ensure that the focus of each presentation centers on the most important information, and is a great way to hold attention.
Additionally, each speaker/presenter should have plenty of notice before the All Hands meeting. Do not inform someone the morning of the meeting that they’ll be presenting. Give them at least a full day's notice. Be specific about what their presentation should look like, and make suggestions on what numbers, metrics, or ideas that you’d like them to share.
Below is an example agenda for an All Hands on Deck meeting:
  • Meeting Start + Meeting Introduction (COO) - 9:30am
  • Company Announcements/Reminders (HR Leader) - 9:35am
  • Employee Spotlight or Pecha Kucha (Employee) - 9:40am
  • Sales Review: Team, Metrics, Goal Tracking, Quotas (Sales Leader) - 9:45am
  • Marketing Review: Projects, Campaigns, Goal Tracking (Marketing Leader) - 9:50am
  • Customer Support Review: Complaints, NPS, Satisfaction (CS Leader) - 9:55am
  • Product Review: New Features, Roadmap, Projections (Product Leader) - 10:00am
  • Company Goals / Company Mission (CEO) 10:05am
  • Question-Answer Session / Feedback (Exec Team) 10:15am

What information should we share?

Every company has its own set of policies and philosophies around how transparent it chooses to be in regards to numbers, metrics, and money. We’ve found that for our company, it’s important to our employees to be as transparent as possible. Transparency builds trust, and trust breeds loyalty. Because of this, we’re very open in All Hands meetings with all of our metrics. We especially make sure everyone is aware of what our common goals are, and whether or not we’re on the right track to accomplish those goals.
"We’ve found that for our company, it’s important to our employees to be as transparent as possible."
At the very minimum, be sure to share information related to company goals. If you have ambitions to sell 100,000 products, then every company All Hands meeting should contain a chart showing how many you’ve sold, and how many you need to sell to reach your goal. Don’t keep your team in the dark. This is the time to rally them and get them excited about what you’re trying to accomplish.

Leave Time For Questions

A great company All Hands on Deck meeting not only serves the purpose of sharing data and information from every department, but also gives opportunities to ask questions and submit feedback. You can do this in a number of ways, but here’s the method that works best for us:
After each department head finishes their presentation, we open the floor to all employees for questions. This allows someone in the engineering department to ask a question to a sales leader, or for someone in customer service to ask a question about the marketing team. We find that allowing for questions and feedback immediately after a departmental presentation bubbles up valuable suggestions, ideas, or commentary from employees that would normally never have an opportunity to share their input on that subject. This makes our team stronger because it promotes cross-functional collaboration, and it gets people excited and participating in discussion that is beyond their direct circle of influence.
Additionally, at the very end of every meeting, our CEO will open it up for further questions and discussion about anything an employee would like to bring up. Sometimes there are questions directly related to company metrics or goals, but sometimes questions are asked from employees who simply want career or life advice. For many companies, there are very few people who ever get to interact and ask questions to their CEO on a regular basis. By opening up the floor at the end of the All Hands meeting, it allows every employee to feel connected to company leadership.

Don't forget to celebrate along the way

All Hands on Deck is a great time to share information, get to know one another, and align employees on common goals. It is also the perfect time to excite every single person in the organization by celebrating milestones, achievements, and success stories, no matter how big or small.
If a team in your company hits a goal, then it should be shouted from the rooftops! Make sure everyone on that team is personally recognized. If the company just passed a major revenue milestone then make a big deal out of it. Award prizes or bonuses. Give high fives. Play music. Shoot cannons of confetti into the air. Even if you want to celebrate small wins, like a positive review, or a customer success story, these things should all be brought to light.
Remember that most employees only know what’s happening within their individual team or department. It’s likely that they’re completely unaware of the accomplishments and achievements of their co-workers. It’s so important to bring these things to light, so the entire company can feel the momentum of these achievements.
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